Can I Get a Witness
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
|"Can I Get a Witness"|
|Single by Marvin Gaye|
|from the album Greatest Hits|
|B-side||"I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby"|
|Recorded||July 17, 1963; Hitsville U.S.A.
|Genre||R&B, soul, rock 'n' roll|
|Producer||Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier|
|Marvin Gaye singles chronology|
"Can I Get a Witness" is a song composed by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland and produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier as a song for American recording vocalist Marvin Gaye, who issued the record on Motown's Tamla imprint in September 1963.
Recorded at Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. studios on July 17, 1963, the song's lyrical writer Eddie Holland discussed going over the song once with Gaye, who had complained to the producers about singing their songs above his vocal range, something he would later complain about during recording sessions for his rendition of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine".
According to Holland, once Gaye heard Holland perform the song to him, he nodded and stated, "okay I'm ready" to a perplexed Holland, who often had to work over the song a few times with other artists who recorded their songs. According to Holland, Gaye recorded the song in one take, which impressed Holland, his brother and Dozier. Holland would later call Gaye "the most versatile vocalist I ever worked with."
On the song, backed by a boogie woogie-styled piano riff played by Funk Brothers pianist Earl Van Dyke, Gaye performs the song in a gospel harmony with members of The Supremes and Holland-Dozier-Holland backing him up on background vocals. Gaye performs the song mostly in a tenor range but occasionally sings in both the baritone and falsetto ranges.
Released in September 1963 as the follow-up to Gaye's top ten hit, "Pride and Joy", the song peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also became one of Gaye's earlier international hit singles, making a buzz at the United Kingdom, primarily among dance clubs in northern England, particularly in London and Leeds, and also charted in France where it peaked at number 29 on its chart. Gaye performed the song live at the The T.A.M.I. Show and lip-synching the song while appearing on the Hollywood A Go-Go in 1964 and also on the BBC show, Ready, Steady, Go! in 1965.
The song was covered several times by UK musicians such as Lulu, Dusty Springfield, The Rolling Stones, Sam Brown and Steampacket (which featured a very young Rod Stewart) as well as fellow Motown act The Supremes. In 1971, Lee Michaels recorded his own version, which peaked at number 39 on the charts. Ironically both Gaye's and Michaels' versions peaked during the Christmas week.
In popular culture
- Gaye's recording is featured in the 1999 biographical film The Hurricane.
- The Red Hot Chili Peppers may have paid tribute to this song in their song, "Hump de Bump", with the line "Can I get my co-defendant?"
- Lead vocals by Marvin Gaye
- Background vocals by Holland–Dozier–Holland (Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland) and The Supremes (Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson)
- Instrumentation by The Funk Brothers